For the week of March 5th, Walt Disney Home Entertainment is bringing Wreck-It Ralph to Blu-ray. In telling the tale of the title character, a video-game antagonist (John C. Reilly) who decides he no longer wants to be the bad guy, this spry CGI comedy does for video games what Who Framed Roger Rabbit did for cartoons - director Rich Moore throws Ralph into a digital world loaded with cameos and references to other popular video games. Happily, Wreck-It Ralph never feels like a cynical cash-grab; the film is funny and surprisingly exciting, and the voice talent is great, with Firefly's Alan Tudyk a standout as the very Ed Wynn-like King Candy.
Kenneth Brown gave the Blu-ray set high marks in his Blu-ray review, writing that, "Walt Disney Animation has, at least for the time being, supplanted Pixar Animation as the Mouse House's go-to source of new classics. While Pixar has been on a bit of a decline (Cars 2 and Brave), Disney Animation has been on a roll thanks to Tangled (by my estimation one of Disney's finest), Winnie the Pooh (a disarmingly minimalistic little gem) and now Wreck-It Ralph, which lays the groundwork for plenty of sequels to come. And it's not as if Ralph will need to repeat itself. Videogaming is as vast as cinema, and the satirical soil is more fertile than any one movie could till. Wreck-It Ralph may not be a flawless insta-classic, but it's a solid, oft-times bold first step into a world that begs further exploration."
Also hitting the HD format is Universal Studios' Schindler's List. The film, which is making its long-awaited Blu-ray debut, remains one of the most celebrated motion pictures ever made, and credit must go to director Steven Spielberg, who approaches the Holocaust with an eye both brutal and unsparing. Spielberg doesn't sugarcoat any of the violence and cruelty, so it's doubly amazing that his film becomes so uplifting by its devastating finale. Through his dramatization of how unscrupulous businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson, in his finest screen performance) used his enamel-works and munitions factories to shield Jews from the Holocaust's ills, Spielberg provides viewers with one of the lone slivers of hope to result from this most terrible of atrocities.
In his review, Kenneth Brown called Schindler's List "an emotionally consuming experience tahat should be free of distraction...Ben Kingsley's quiet despair as horrors unspeakable unfold before him. The clearing of the Ghetto. The young boy hiding beneath a pit toilet in an outhouse. The gas chambers. Ralph Fiennes' sudden outburst and violent beating of a Jewish woman. The little girl in the red coat. The real Plaszow survivors gathering in the present to place stones atop Schindler's grave. And, yes, Liam Neeson's breakdown, a scene some have criticized as overly melodramatic but most consider a heartwrenching moment of overwhelming grief, realization, and regret. In all, there are too many affecting scenes to list."
On Tuesday, Kino Video is hosting a standalone version of Buster Keaton's College. This silent comedy first appeared on the HD format through Kino's massive Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection, but it's now available for viewers who don't want to take that whole $200-plus plunge. Either separately or part of the box set, College is more than worth a viewing; it lets Keaton string together an endless series of gags as a brainy-but-nebbish college freshman who decides to remake himself as a jock. This one ends with one of Keaton's most brilliant setpieces, a freewheeling jaunt through the college campus as Keaton rushes to save his captured love interest (Anne Cornwall).
Casey Broadwater writes that this "comparatively small-scaled production [is] often overlooked in Keaton's filmography, particularly since it's sandwiched between what are arguably Buster's two best movies. If short on the exorbitant, over-the-top sight gags of The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr. - a collapsing bridge, a house-lifting hurricane, a raging flood - College is exemplary of Keaton's brilliant low-key character work and his ability to wrangle laughs out of just about any scenario."
Finally, we end the week with Warner Home Entertainment's Westworld. For many years, Michael Crichton's sci-fi thriller seemed like an engaging-but-corny riff on the Western genre; he imagines a futuristic, adults-only theme park where guests can indulge their most hedonistic fantasies, with his main focus on two yuppies (Richard Benjamin and James Brolin) who trade in their timeshares and board meetings for the six-shooters and horses of the Wild West-themed section. However, since its premiere in 1973, the film has gained a steadily growing cult, and it isn't hard to see why. Its central plot development, which finds the park's android staff malfunctioning and hunting the unsuspecting guests, bears a striking resemblance to Crichton's later smash-hit Jurassic Park, and its central antagonist - Yul Brynner's grinning, dead-eyed outlaw - shares more than a little DNA with Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator.
Michael Reuben calledWestworld "a sci-fi classic, despite its limited budget...Crichton foresaw that technology would be pressed into service to deliver to consumers a kind of ersatz stimulation as daily life became more monotonous, alienated and routine. He wanted to explore—metaphorically, if not literally—the risks of that transition, just as Malcolm warned against the unpredictability of the genetic experiments in Jurassic Park. Being a populist entertainer, he slipped his questions between the lines of a lively, often amusing and always engrossing parody of a theme park for the rich."
Wreck-It Ralph 3D
John Dies at the End
Playing For Keeps (For the wife)
The Marine 3
The Nativity Story
Red Dawn (Bargain Bin)
Ocean Giants 3D
World's Nature 3D
Wild Africa 3D
Ocean Giants 3D
Oh, and I might pick up the porno disguised as an instructional video:
Some of those 3D wilderness movies look cool. Tempted to get Bret Hart as his family's local. Maybe Nativity Story, but why the release now? Why not at Christmas? And what's with that so-called 3D porno?